Does Buying Things Make You Happy?

Putting A Golf BallIt’s super easy to buy just about anything today.

With one-click on your computer or phone you can buy something on Amazon and have it to your door in two days or less. It’s crazy how efficient shopping has become.

Part of the reason is the ease of purchase. But another big reason is the drop in costs. Going to a movie, for example, is about the same as it was 20 years ago. I remember going to movies in high school (early 2000s) and paying about $8-10/ea for a ticket. Today, you can stream just about any movie you want for that price per month on Netflix.

But even though costs are lower, it’s still important to watch what you’re spending because the costs can certainly add up. You can use it to drive you to make more money, but that can be a real rat race. Well all probably know people that are anxious all the time in part to some out of control spending and poor habits with money.

An obvious way to fix a situation like that is to spend less than you make. Or to just spend less in general. But I think that leaves out an important element: what you’re buying

What Matters Most

We each have things that make us happy. Things we love.

It’s one of the strangest things to me, but I read Rod Stewart’s autobiography several years back and in that book he said that his dad told him some great advice… He said that everybody ought to have three things in life:

  • Job
  • Hobby
  • Sport

A job gives you purpose and provides for you and your family. A hobby provides an escape. A sport also provides escape and tension release and it also helps you keep you naturally in good health.

The key takeaway from that lesson, though, is that you really only want to have one of each. When you go over one in any of the three areas you start diluting things. Your enjoyment goes down. Your spending can certainly go up both with money, but also with time and energy.

That’s the trap that is easy to fall into. You start seeing what other people are doing. They have smiles on their faces. You figure that if they’re happy then doing the same thing will make you happy.

So you buy that product or you go on that vacation or whatever. And it might feel good initially, but in the long-term it usually makes you feel bad in some way. Either because you spent money and you don’t feel like you got value or because the experience didn’t live up to your expectations.

We’re All A Little Different

What makes you happy is probably different than what makes your friend, your spouse, your child, your sibling and your parent happy.

Part of the trap is that we want others to share in our happiness. When we feel happy, we want others to feel the same way so we push our experiences on them. It can be difficult to find others that share the same job or hobby or sport. At least that share it with the same passion.

For example, I love to golf. Love it. It’s my sport. I have a good friend that likes to golf. But not to the level that I do. For years I would continually ask him to come golfing with me. After awhile I realized that golf just wasn’t his #1 hobby or sport. And I understood, after all that time, that it was fine.

The challenge is understanding yourself. You have to really look at what gives you the most joy in each of those areas and spend your money on those things. The more you understand what you love the most the easier it is to not spend money on other things.

I go on about 2-3 golf tips every year. To some, that might seem excessive. But to me it’s money well spent. I love it. But I also don’t spend my money on a lot of things that others might spend it on. And it’s not that golf is better than anything else. It’s just that for me it’s #1 on the list. For others, it’s not.

Final Thoughts

Spending and not spending money gets a little easier when you take some time to look at yourself and what makes you happy. Figure out what you do that you would do for no money or that brings you happiness when nobody is looking. That kind of thing.

Then focus on spending money in those areas and those areas only. At least beyond the basics. A cool thing you’ll find is that because you love these things so much you’ll find ways to save and also make more money to fuel your happiness.

It also leads to letting go of the fear of missing out. Because we can’t do everything that our peers are doing. But we can do the one or two things that matter most to us.

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